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‘Collective punishment against us’: US shuts down Palestine Liberation Organization’s office in DC

‘Collective punishment against us’: US shuts down Palestine Liberation Organization’s office in DC
The US State Department has announced it is shutting down the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) office in Washington, DC, a move which a top PLO official says is aimed at “collectively punishing the Palestinian people.”

The department said that the decision to close the office is consistent with US concerns about Palestinian attempts to launch a probe into Israeli actions at the International Criminal Court (ICC). It comes after the Palestinian Foreign Ministry asked the ICC in May to open an investigation into alleged Israeli violations against Palestinians, calling Tel Aviv's actions regarding illegal settlements “crimes against humanity.” It cited “grave crimes” against Palestinians by Israel, including forcible transfer, the unlawful killing of peaceful protesters, and the demolition of Palestinian homes.

READ MORE: ‘War crimes’: Palestine calls on ICC to investigate Israeli ‘human rights violations’

“We have been notified by a US official of their decision to close the Palestinian Mission to the US,” Secretary-General of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Saeb Erekat said in a statement earlier. According to the official, the move is “another affirmation” of the US policy “to collectively punish the Palestinian people.”

The situation shows that Washington is willing “to disband the international system in order to protect Israeli crimes and attacks against the land and people of Palestine,” Erekat stressed, adding that Palestine will not “succumb to US threats and bullying.”

“Lowering the flag of Palestine in Washington DC means much more than a new slap by the Trump Administration against peace and justice,” Erekat said. “It symbolizes the US attacks against the international system as a whole, including the Paris Convention, UNESCO and the Human Rights Council among others.”

READ MORE: ‘War crimes’: Palestine calls on ICC to investigate Israeli ‘human rights violations’

The official noted that Palestine continues to call upon the International Criminal Court (ICC) “to open its immediate investigation into Israeli crimes.” On late Sunday Reuters released a draft text by National Security Advisor John Bolton, which says that the US will fight back using any means necessary if the ICC ever dares to probe an American or an Israeli. In May this year the Palestinian Foreign Ministry asked the ICC to open a probe into Israeli violations against Palestinians, linked to illegal settlements, calling Tel Aviv’s actions “crimes against humanity.”

The US move comes less than three weeks after Trump promised Palestinians that they “will get something very good” in future negotiations. Considering America’s unwavering support for Israel, Palestinian leadership was skeptical of US promises.

In late August the White House withdrew all funding from the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, describing its approach to handling the issue as “unsustainable” and the US contribution as disproportionate. The total number of registered Palestinian refugees qualifying for the UN assistance is more than 5 million. The UN agency said it was disappointed by the US move, saying that “these very programs have a proven track record in creating one of the most successful human development processes and results in the Middle East.”

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